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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Can the Whole World Become Democratic? Democracy, Development, and International Policies


Can any state become democratic? Can the whole world become democratic? This lecture argues that the answers to both questions are yes, and that neither culture nor history nor poverty are insurmountable obstacles. Indeed, for much of the world that remains trapped in poverty, a growing body of evidence and policy analysis suggests that democratic, accountable, transparent governance is a fundamental condition for sustainable development. There are no preconditions for democracy, other than a willingness on the part of a nation's elite to attempt to govern by democratic means. But that, in itself, will require strong pressure from below, in civil society, and from outside, in the international community, to generate the political will for democratic reform. And sustaining democracy in the context of unfavorable cultural, social, and economic conditions requires institutions to foster effective, accountable governance as well as robust international engagement and support. Democracy can emerge anywhere, but it can only take root if it brings about, however gradually, a more prosperous, just, and decent society.

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